Yo-Yo Ma ends his spring CSO residency in style

May 11, 2012

Miles Doornbos

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Since being named the orchestra’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has been a frequent presence in Chicago. This week alone there have been the multiple performances with the CSO, open rehearsals and an extended engagement on Monday with students at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen.

That last appearance is part of the CSO’s ambitious Citizen Musician initiative.

Formally launched in 2011, it’s an effort to take the orchestra out of the concert hall and into the community – to engage the world in the ideas…themes and power of music. 

Thus far, the Citizen Musician project has taken Ma, the musicians of the CSO and its many partner organizations to destinations like the Thompson Center, Metra stations, Lakeview High School, and the Illinois Youth Prison, among others.

Yes, the program is, in part, about building audiences, but as Ma sees it, the concept has much more to do with the power of music to move people - and to build bridges between communities of difference.

In his case, the philsophy of the citizen musician - a musician who is deeply engaged with the world - is one of his driving passions as an artist and a person today. You can see evidence of it not only in his work with the CSO, but in his long-running Silk Road Project, his myriad musical collaborations and even in his approach to pop culture.


Ma's spring residency with the CSO concluded Friday with a performance of Haydn's D major Cello Concerto, but the day before, he sat down for an extended chat with The Afternoon Shift's Steve Edwards at Symphony Center.

It was their first time meeting - and a conversation Steve was looking forward to having.

"He's dynamic, joyful and as engaging as you hope he'd be - and even funnier than you'd expect," Steve said of their encounter.

But their conversation was anything but light.  They focused on Ma's belief that music and culture can bring real change in an era ripped apart by economics and politics - and why he thinks Chicago is an ideal place from which to begin.